From the early days of punch cards and tape, backing up and recovering data have always been a crucial failsafe in computing. Backup, and later, backup and disaster recovery (BDR) solutions have evolved to ensure reliable, secure access to data, even as the number of businesses that rely on data and data volumes skyrocket.
Four industry thought leaders provide their insights on what’s trending with BDR now and where these solutions may be heading for the future:
- Michael Elliott, Director of Product Marketing, Axcient
- Alex Quilter, Vice President, Product Management, Security, SolarWinds MSP
- George Anderson, Product Marketing Director, Webroot, a Carbonite company
- Sean Derrington, Sr. Director — Product Management, StorageCraft
1. Cloud Backup Trends
There’s no single option for cloud backup that is the optimal choice for all businesses and organizations.
Quilter points out, “Research shows that customers and service providers are pretty divided here. Many already have public cloud accounts that they use and continue to leverage, while others want to ensure all their eggs don’t end up in the same cloud basket.”
“Some organizations are looking for specific certifications or guarantees about storage location, compatibility with their chosen software, or simply want peace of mind knowing where the “private cloud” is physically located,” he says. “Smaller service providers may like the turnkey aspect of using public cloud providers, while some of the larger providers are looking at new revenue opportunities and choose to stand-up their own private cloud.”
Elliott explains that there are two primary ways that public cloud-based solutions come into play: Direct-to-cloud and BDR to public cloud. “Direct to cloud BDR solutions can be inexpensive, but don’t easily address the effort and time of recovering from the cloud. Large backup data sets over smaller communications pipes can lead to a recovery time measured in days, or even weeks,” Elliott says. “BDR to public cloud can be an inexpensive way to store your backups, but require knowledge on how to virtualize in the cloud, and don’t represent a great way once virtualized, to get that updated information rehydrated locally.”
Anderson says although the most popular choice may be “hybrid cloud,” with both private and public cloud computing platforms and greater flexibility to manage workloads and costs, a more effective solution is “multi-cloud.”
“Multi-cloud uses multiple cloud computing and storage services. By backing up public cloud workloads using multi-cloud deployment, businesses can add greater resiliency to their cloud environments and ensure long-term flexibility when seeking to further expand their public cloud footprints.” Anderson says.
2. The Role of Emerging Technologies
BDR solutions continue to evolve and will leverage new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) to keep data accessible and secure.
“A lot of business continuity and disaster recovery activity is reactive today,” says Quilter. “Predictive analysis of known conditions and common errors could play a large role in data and disaster recovery going forward, so it is only logical to think that AI could start to play a role to determine which data is worth protecting, at what frequency, and for how long.”
“Imagine if your backup software could determine which employee-generated data is important to protect vs. what is simply part of a semi-static OS or application. Control retention, location, number of copies, and the speed of recovery are vital to ensure that critical business data is recovered first,” he says.
Elliott adds that AI could also play a part in integrating disaster recovery solutions with other technology, such as the security and hypervisor layer. “Taking the intelligence from other systems to make determinations around course of action according to threat vectors, application movement, and hardware monitoring, will improve how to build true business continuity solutions,” he says.
AI can also help fight back against cyberattacks. Anderson explains, “Cybercriminals can use AI to periodically change words used in phishing emails until they find the most effective word combination. This allows more messages to bypass spam filters. AI in disaster recovery can play a role in mitigating these threats by automatically identifying threats and implementing response procedures.”
3. Sophistication Puts BDR Management Out of Reach for Some Users
As BDR solutions become more complex, more end users may seek the help of managed services providers (MSPs) to manage them.
“The number of operating systems, applications, and configurations makes backup and disaster recovery a daunting task to deploy, monitor, and test,” says Quilter. “Unless you are super-efficient, this isn’t a part-time role for a helpdesk technician. Small to mid-sized businesses should review if they have the right budgets and IT staff on-hand to manage this, and if not, they should consider externally managed and monitored solutions.”
Elliott adds, “The average business doesn’t have expertise in IT. It’s not a core competency. Outsourcing BDR to an MSP enables businesses to focus on their core business.”
4. Vendors Are Working to Make Advanced Solutions Easier to Use
Anderson points out that while backup and data recovery solutions are becoming more advanced, management is becoming streamlined. “Backup and disaster recovery have historically been considered separate disciplines, managed with separate tools. However, in recent years, many backup products have added DR capabilities, streamlining systems and tools for users.”
Derrington says vendors are simplifying BDR management by breaking down data silos and moving primary and secondary data onto a single system that is cost-effective, easy to use, and that scales-out capacity and availability in a non-disruptive way.
StorageCraft sees SMBs and mid-size enterprises taking advantage of a converged data platform that delivers unified data protection, scale-out storage and easy-to-use management tools. Some are choosing cloud-based services that eliminate the need for dedicated servers and software upgrades.
“Whichever approach an organization chooses, implementing a converged strategy simplifies data management while adding stronger data protections, ensuring scalability, and delivering effective business continuity tools,” says Derrington.
5. A Market for Complementary Solutions and Services
There is a growing need for services around BDR. Anderson says businesses with limited IT resources should bring in managed service providers (MSPs) for an internal audit of its systems and to report on the company’s weaknesses and strengths. “This audit should serve as the backbone of cybersecurity reform efforts and will help identify what areas a business should be investing in,” he says.
Elliott says it’s smart for MSPs to think outside the box when it comes to the BDR services they provide. “Most MSPs are focused on consulting, testing, and helping to create disaster recovery plans. I would push businesses to make sure that they examine expertise around security, compliance, and true business availability,” he says.
Where the Opportunities Are
Now that so many businesses are relying on data to operate, it may be challenging for MSPs to segment their markets to reach the most viable prospects.
Elliott advises that MSPs focus efforts on companies that need to comply with regulations or are vulnerable to security threats. He adds that other viable prospects are those looking for ways to divest from managing IT so they can focus on expanding their businesses. “Any business that isn’t in IT should consider outsourcing to an MSP,” says Elliott.
Quilter says you may find opportunity with organizations that have recently suffered a data loss due to ransomware or natural disaster. “Organizations that have never suffered a loss can sometimes have an ‘it won’t happen to us’ attitude to service providers who offer these types of services,” he explains. “But in reality, they should stay one step ahead of potential data loss by investing in these services from a reliable provider to help ensure business continuity—backup is like a life insurance policy that protects your important data assets.”
Anderson says there is significant demand in the SMB market for BDR services. He cites a recent Hiscox survey that found 59 percent of cyberattacks are directed at SMBs. Additionally, a Vanson Bourne report states that 79 percent of SMBs plan to invest more in cybersecurity within the next year to respond to growing threats.
He adds that companies with limited in-house resources may be looking for a managed services provider. The tech skills gap can, in some cases, lead to an increased workload on internal IT staff, which can lead to error and employee burnout. “The cybersecurity skills shortage affects companies across industries. MSPs can add value to these organizations by offering their expertise and alleviating the workload on employees,” Anderson concludes.